Saturday, November 17, 2007


Sometimes the scene at the stadium can be calm and smooth, other times, not so much. Tonight was closer to the latter - in a very fun way - so we'll tell you some the goings on from Ellis Park this afternoon.

  • The locker room was tiny. The benches were arranged in an oval shape, with just enough stalls for the players. We wound up with a makeshift coaches locker room and treatment room, and practically had to construct an ice bath for post-game.

  • The pre-game scene at Ellis Park was truly remarkable. When the MNT blog arrived at the game more than four hours before kickoff, fans were already piling into the stands, and the signing and dancing had begun. These guys were some of the first people in the stands. How long do you think that you could play a fake guitar for? We bet it's not SIX hours straight, like this guy. Anyhow, about 90 minutes before kickoff the party really started. At each corner of the pitch, a small stage was set up, with DJs and dancers on each setup. An MC oversaw the whole operation, whipping the crowd into a frenzy as kickoff approached. Did we mention the dancers? Because at last count there were forty plus lining the outside of the field before kickoff. The teams came out to a rapturous applause, and it seemed as if everybody in the stands either waving a South African flag or blowing a horn.
  • Ever notice that Beas is always chewing gum when he's playing? Tonight he forgot it, so the staff went scrambling to score him a piece literally right before the opening whistle.

  • Bob's talk to the team at half time focused on keeping good communication, moving the lines together as a group, and being prepared for the pressure that would come from a home team starting the second half behind a goal. Tim Howard also wanted the backline to drop when their 'keeper got the ball, since his kicks upfield were consistently long. The three half time changes were planned from the night before.

  • The spread in the media center was quite impressive. The half time meal was just as big as the what the federation served pre-game, and was clearly representative of the local cuisine. It was fajitas!

  • The first group of players had to leave the hotel for the airport at 7:30 p.m. If you work backwards, you had a 4:06 p.m. kickoff, the match ending just after six, a post-match ceremony, a press conference and a 25-minute ride back to the hotel. Not much time to dawdle before hustling off.

  • Almost every player exchanged jerseys tonight, which isn't always typical. South Africa was wearing new uniforms. Beas and Benni McCarthy had pre-arranged their swap.

  • It's impossible to underestimate how much significance the people of South Africa placed on the match being associated with Nelson Mandela. When the trophy came off the bus, the hotel staff were literally in awe. Our team manager spent 30 extra minutes in the lobby so everyone could have their picture taken with the trophy.

  • The second group departing sat in the hotel lounge watching the end of Scotland-Italy. A heartbreaker for Tartan's Army. Meantime, Israel pulls off a stunner at home beating Russia, 2-1, giving England a fighting chance to qualify for Euro 2008.

    Major props to the people of Jo’Burg, because this game was an experience unlike any other. If this friendly is anything to go by, 2010 should be truly amazing.


Gabe said...

Good Job USA. They didn't play great, but they got the win.
And Yeah, the atmosphere and crowd were amazing. I can't wait to go to 2010.

sonny980 said...

nice usa, not the best preformance, but the boys did good, can't wait til 2010, i'm going!!!!!!!

Ryan said...

Good win guys. Not the most entertaining, but it was a great atmosphere, and a win. Not to mention there was nothing but fair play. Loved to hear about the shirt exchange.

About the DMB gum thing, I actually made a recent intramural game dely kickoff by about two minutes so I could have someone run a piece of gum to me in the net :)